2020 has been a year with raging digital content — to compensate for not being able to enjoy the big screen, we have been graced with hundreds of web series’ in this wonky pandemic season. And as a result of being inundated with so much stuff to watch, there is a fairly good chance that great, solid shows got buried under this pile. After a decent amount of scavenging and digging, here are ten praiseworthy shows that did not get the attention they deserved.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (SonyLIV)
SonyLIV has had a rocky but ultimately rewarding year. With gems like Scam 1992, JL50, and A Confession, the platform has proven that one must watch out for it. But in the process, shows like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist did get sidelined — another one of SonyLIV’s gems. After suffering a screwy form of brain damage, Zoey is able to hear everyone’s thoughts as music numbers. Its songs are joyful and cheery, and Jane Levy, in all her quirkiness, pulls off her role with ease and charm.
Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Apple TV+, as a fledgeling streaming platform, has come out with fairly decent content this year that has been overlooked solely due to its lack of media recognition. But we cannot blame the show for that, now, can we? Ted Lasso, about a soccer coach that knows nothing about the sport, is an endearing and charming feat of escapism. You must watch this for Jason Sudeikis’ lovability and optimism alone.
Teenage Bounty Hunters (Netflix)
Netflix has been a champion of tried and failed young adult content this year — with underwhelming shows like Cursed, Never Have I Ever, and Warrior Nun, it is natural for one to not even bother with new experiments anymore. But Teenage Bounty Hunters is a kooky and amusing ride that finally landed. While this fuzzily addictive show has not been renewed for a second season, it wouldn’t hurt to watch a twin sister duo kick ass by teaming up with a bounty hunter. It is sharp, earnest, and hilarious.
Devs (Disney+ Hotstar)
Devs is one of the most thought-provoking shows of the year — like Sartre on steroids, it is a reflection on free will and existence. After the CEO of a cultist, eerie company buys an AI that can predict the movement of organisms, the original developer of the AI mysteriously disappears. This universe is quiet and subliminally apocalyptic — it’s a slow burn but once the mystery sets in, we’re exposed to a Pandora’s box of dark but contemplative philosophy.
Upload (Amazon Prime Video)
Greg Daniels has given us shows that have pierced the cultural fabric of television — from The Office to Parks and Recreation. Upload is another one of his zany creations — where a man, after an untimely death, decides to transpose himself to a virtual afterlife. There’s something lofty and adventurous about shows that choose to explore an afterworld (like The Good Place), and Daniels’ series, just like its subject material, is ridiculously imaginative and silly.
Defending Jacob (Apple TV+)
Based on a novel by William Landay, an assistant district attorney’s life is thrown into a whirlwind of confusion and tragedy after his son is accused of murder. Steeped in clichés, there’s nothing separating Defending Jacob from other mysteries and courtroom dramas, but there’s a lot of fun to be had while watching Chris Evans take a break from a ramrod straight, virtuous superhero. We saw that with Knives Out and out here again. Also, if you need another reason to watch the limited series — J. K. Simmons is in it.
I May Destroy You (Disney+ Hotstar)
I May Destroy You is perhaps HBO’s most powerful and stirring show this year. Sophie Gilbert aptly described this as a drama that’s “more complicated than it seems.” The series delicately explores the trauma of sexual assault — it is simultaneously sardonic and disorienting. Michael Coel’s traumatised but vulnerable glare meets the post #MeToo culture with absolute sensitivity — it challenges us to think about relationships and consent with more nuance. It is a shame that this show did not propel such conversations in India yet.
On Becoming a God in Central Florida (SonyLIV)
Oh, how much I love watching a dark comedy done right — On Becoming a God gives us a look at how a daily wage employee carries out a pernicious pyramid scheme that ends up hurting everyone around her. Characterised as a “thorough evisceration of American capitalism” by Ben Travers, Kirsten Dunst incisively portrays the murky morals that come with desperation and fear. It is peculiar but profusely sad.
ZeroZeroZero (Amazon Prime Video)
Combine Sicario with Narcos and you get ZeroZeroZero. We’ve had a fair share of crime dramas about drugs come along our way for years now, but this show’s inventive script and exhilarating visuals make it for a story to be reckoned with. The plot, about a cocaine shipment that sends a global drug ring into a violent frenzy, is thrilling and most importantly, binge-worthy.
Little Fires Everywhere (Disney+ Hotstar)
A compelling portrait of racial dynamics in the US, a white picture-perfect family’s life is upended when a Black family moves into their town. As the new family mingles with the old one, a tinderbox of conflict and tension is ignited. With Reese Witherspoon’s buttoned-up character and Kerry Washington’s hardened personality, Little Fires Everywhere slowly becomes a powerful and captivating miniseries.